The Mayor of Coquitlam wants to create a Zombie

The Mayor of Coquitlam is not taking the death of the UBE lightly. I suppose we should have expected as much. Except that his complete lack of participation in the last 6 months of public consultation, and the complete lack of interest his community has show for the project sort of got me thinking maybe Coquitlam would accept the obvious, as New Westminster did. The obvious being that 10 lanes of Freeway and 6 lanes of Lougheed Highway would prove adequate for goods movement, and that trucks really don’t need another four lanes of curvy, driveway-dotted United Boulevard.

Alas, those were but dreams. Mayor Stewart has instead decided to cry to the teacher … uh, I mean the Province and the Feds, in the form of a letter to the Ministry of Transport and the Federal Minister of Canadian Heritage. It is apparent from the letter that he could have learned a lot from attending some of the consultation meetings.

I would love to deconstruct this letter. It’s my blog, I guess I will.

No-one has ever demonstrated that United Blvd. is” vitally needed” for good movement, especially after the freeway is expanded and the SFPR is built. Just who are these truckers trying to get from New West to points East via a narrow, 4-lane commercial road, through lights and past the Casino, the furniture stores, the Toys R Us, just to get to the freeway or the Lougheed? Why are they so irrational as to not just go directly to the freeway or Lougheed?

Also, the consultations with TransLink found a solution that adequately addressed the rail safety issues at the level crossing at Braid: it was “Option C”, and TransLink decided it did not serve it’s needs. If Mayor Stewart is concerned about rail safety at a level crossing that has not seen an accident since…?, then will he embrace TransLink’s “option C” that was preferred by New Westminster residents during the 6 months of consultations he did not attend?

He keeps going on about “goods movement capacity” going from 4 lanes to one. United Boulevard is not 4 lanes, it is two lanes. Expansion to 4 lanes is possible (although not if we want to maintain cycling lanes, as the road is not wide enough for 4+cycling lanes, but I digress). But most of the traffic on this road is cars and commuters, not goods movement. He knows it, we know it, TransLink knows it. Blair Lekstrom probably doesn’t know it.

Also, where does this 4 lanes of “goods movement capacity” go when it gets another 500m west? To a one-lane light-controlled left turn onto Front Street. So much for increased capacity.

TransLink has NOT committed funding, in fact Mayor Stewart himself is on the Mayor’s Council that did not fully fund the supplemental budget that would have included the UBE: He doesn’t know where the money is coming from. Even with this supplemental funding (that Mayor Stewart voted against), there was a $30-50 Million “funding gap” on the UBE, remarkably similar to the “Funding Gap” on the Evergreen.

Also, by (intentionally?) conflating the UBE and the NFPR, hew can conveniently avoid the issue that the entire TransLink portion of the NFPR is completely unfunded, another several-hundred-million-dollar “funding Gap”. Mayor Stewart wants a freeway overpass in New Westminster, but he doesn’t want to pay for it. Compared to the rest of the NFPR, this $65Million in federal money is a drop in the bucket.

Who is “we”? the Mayor signed it himself. Is he using the “Royal We”? Regardless, I would like His Worship to explain exactly how the Bailey Bridge is “holding our regional economy back”. Really, he is asking the Feds to commit $65 Million, for TransLink and (?) to spend another $100 Million, for Sapperton residents to live with a freeway overpass in their front yard, and for all of New Westminster to accommodate increased traffic congestion and the negative impacts to our entire City… isn’t it a fair question to ask exactly how avoiding these impacts is “holding our regional economy back”? Let’s see a business case.

Oh, here we go, the UBE supports Coquitlam’s “planned growth”. Now we are getting to brass tacks, Coquitlam’s “planned growth” is contingent on the degradation of New Westminster’s liveability? Sorry, We are the City that is accommodating regional growth by building a dense, transit-oriented City. We are the City with region-leading alternative transportation mode share. Coquitlam is the City that refuses to sign the Regional Growth Strategy, the City that refused to allow a Millennium Line station in Maillardville, because transit accessibility was such and offensive idea. So we have to accept the automobile and exhaust effluent of your unsustainable, car-oriented residential development at Fraser Mills? Now, after refusing a Skytrain Station, after you start building the King Edward Overpass, after you fill lower Maillardville with auto-oriented development, 10 lanes of freeway and 6 lanes of Lougheed Highway connected by a spaghetti-bowl of concrete: now you suggest traffic might be a problem? And you are crazy enough to suggest 3 more lanes of bridge in New Westminster are going to be some sort of magic solution to this traffic quagmire you have developed!? With all due respect, are you insane?

It seems that Mayor Stewart has a different definition of “community livability” than I do. Based on what I saw and heard at 6 months of community consultation, I suspect that the majority opinion is closer to mine than his.

There we go with the “Royal We” again. Presumably, he is talking for Council, but Council is addressed as a copy to the letter. Along with making the province aware of the negative impacts on regional economic development, could he also let us know? He has hinted towards it, but he still doesn’t actually provide any data to support this assertion.

I’m also not sure here what he is asking the Province to do. “Act quickly and decisively” to overturn the results of 6 months of public consultations? Why does the Mayor feel so contemptuous towards the public?

It is great that Coquitlam has a “preferred solution”, yet will be flexible on how their poor planning negatively impacts New Westminster, even being OK with a few trees being planted for mitigation. Damn magnanimous of him. What a team player.

With all the usual sarcasm and snarkiness aside, here I honestly disagree with Mayor Stewart. This is not an impasse that can only be solved by the Province plowing a freewhere through where a community doesn’t want it. This is a disagreement between neighbours, and there is a lot of room for discussion yet. The UBE as proposed by TransLink is dead, and as a zombie it is starting to stink. If Mayor Stewart really wants to move goods and people, really wants to improve rail safety, and really wants to work with New Westminster finding a common solution, then maybe he should engage us like TransLink did. Maybe he can actually hear the concerns that New Westminster had, and find out if some of the solutions that came out of the TransLink consultations (that didn’t work for TransLink) can work for both Cities.

We all want rail safety, we all want goods to move efficiently, we all want livable communities. We just disagree how to get there. The Mayor thinks more roads in New Westminster will solve his problem, the people in New Westminster don’t think building lanes has ever solved congestion problems.

If you can find an example from anywhere in the world where building road capacity has done anything other than increase traffic demand and lead to further congestion, please bring that to the meeting.

Since you asked, I have a few questions:

James Moore is the Minister of Canadian Heritage. What does he think of the destruction of the waterfront of BC’s first Capital City to accommodate a 4-lane express route for trucks, against the expressed desires of the Mayor, Council, and Citizens of BC’s most Historic City?

Is that the same Iain Black who suggested during a 2009 All-Candidates Meeting that the Evergreen was a “done deal”, and people should stop worrying because it was being built?

OK, those questions were both sarcastic and a little snarky. They were not, however, as cynical as your Worship’s letter.

Leave a Reply